I always thought I was in excellent health.
I am not overweight. My cholesterol numbers make doctors weep with joy.
I made it through a year of student teaching without taking a sick day, and everyone knows schools are dens of supergerms.
I had four healthy, fairly easy pregnancies with quick weight loss and recovery afterward.
My genes are strong as all get out, as evidenced by an aunt who downhill skis in her 70s, another (older) aunt who is on her feet all day in retail, and the fact that the only regular prescription my dad had by the time he turned 70 was for reading glasses.
And I certainly didn’t have any food sensitivities or weak stomach issues.
I got a little big-headed about it, I imagine, thinking I was akin to Superwoman in the physical health category.
I suffered with a bit of the “I’m invincible” fallacy that adolescents often struggle with when they get their driver’s licenses.
Until I got into all this natural health stuff, I didn’t realize that the fact that I usually evacuated my bowels once a day meant that I was constipated my whole life.
Stinky feet? Just wore shoes that didn’t breathe.
A bit addicted to sweets, especially chocolate? Not a problem – isn’t everyone?
I never would have read anything about candida from the first person perspective, wondering if I had it.
Until this happened:
What started two years prior as an annoying itchy spot at the base of my hairline on the back of my neck, correlating roughly to when I started using the “no shampoo” method of washing my hair, suddenly started to get more intense, more itchy, more scaly, and much, much bigger last spring:
I don’t have a photo of it when it was small, the way it probably was for two years. I never saw it. I never had anyone take a look at it to see if it looked odd. I just tolerated it and didn’t take the time to consider it.
When I could feel it being scaly however, I started asking people: “What does this look like to you?”
Most of them were pretty frightened.
When I realized one day that it had traveled around the sides of my neck, and even to the front, following the path of the chain on my necklace that I wore constantly, I started to get a little freaked out.
I was a nursing mom; I couldn’t have some contagious fungus or other sort of unknown evil rash that I could pass to my baby!
At some point I called to make an appointment with a dermatologist I had seen before, when I didn’t yet know how to cure warts naturally, and they could fit me in in a few short months.
Apparently there are plenty of people with skin issues.
Unfortunately for me, the fact that the rash had now covered my neck and upper chest (top photo) and was going down my arms made me think I didn’t really have two months to sit around and wonder, “What the heck IS this?”
I had to find someone who would see me immediately, and since I hadn’t found a new doctor when we moved a few months earlier, it was the perfect time.
I had recently written a post on how to find a naturally minded doctor, so I had some phone numbers at my disposal. The naturopath I chose to call, Dr. Kathryn Doran-Fisher at Elder & Sage, was available for an appointment that very day, and I was off to the races.
I also made an appointment with a regular MD locally, just to have something to compare to. Both docs had something to say about my rash within seconds of meeting me, but their thoughts on it couldn’t have been more different.
What is Candida Anyway? What are the Symptoms?
Candida is a yeast that is part of our natural flora, which means it’s present in our bodies naturally. In this case, both externally and internally.
The problem that is happening when people say, “I have candida,” is really an overgrowth of yeast, which causes an imbalance and begins a domino effect of other problems. It’s called “candidiasis” or a candida yeast infection.
Symptoms of candida include:
- brain fog
- athlete’s foot
- cradle cap
- diaper rash
- fungal nail infections
- joint pain
- respiratory problems
- sinus congestion
- and more… source and here
Some say candida overgrowth and especially all these symptoms are literally a hoax, a relationship that doesn’t even exist that natural health practitioners use to describe any skin ailment whatsoever. There is little clinical evidence that an anti-candida diet, for example, does any good with a candida yeast infection, or that these infections can cause symptoms beyond the visible, physical symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection or thrush in the mouth.
However – perhaps that’s because there is little funding for clinical trials that don’t involve buying a product or pharmaceutical to cure a disease.
I know or have heard of too many people who have mitigated or cured their candida symptoms with an anti-candida diet to believe that it’s a non-existent problem.
Candida yeast feeds on sugar, which is a primary culprit as far as causes of overgrowth, along with antibiotics, birth control, steroids, and pregnancy.
And that brings me back to the title of the post – I am getting a sneaking suspicion that our general gut balance as a nation is probably declining as the generations pass and our diets get worse.
It is likely that if I have a yeast imbalance of some sort, that I passed that on to my children, even though we are all now eating fairly well. Since I never fully addressed/eradicated my candida overgrowth, I have children with eczema, cradle cap, etc.
I was formula-fed (mom tried, but it wasn’t meant to be, and that’s okay) and ate white sugar all my life, and if my kids, who were fully breastfed and ate very little white sugar (if any, depending on the kid) before their first birthday, have issues with gut imbalance, what of the children of my generation who are sucking down sugary drinks and white flour munchies all day long from toddlerdom on? Then they’ll pass their messed-up flora on to their own kids, who will feed that yeast overgrowth with more sugar, and won’t it just keep getting worse? (Pregnancy can be one of the causal factors of candida, too, by the way.)
I’m hoping to break the cycle in my own family, but not everyone has the knowledge or dedication to do so. (I’m still not quite sure if I do, as a matter of fact…)
I Don’t Want to Heal Myself!
…because natural health can be tricky.
When I was working on fighting my candida (don’t worry, I will tell you how I did it eventually. I don’t look like a shiny red alligator anymore.), I felt a little “in over my head” and emailed Dr. Kathryn with some questions. She was very kind and thorough, and at the end of her email, she wrote: “I hope that I can continue to help you navigate how best to heal yourself.”
It just about put me over the edge.
I know she meant it as a nice gesture, but at that point, I was so overwhelmed by the simple fact that when treating yourself, you have to figure out what’s working, what isn’t, what do try next…keeping my brain so engaged was exhausting! I get it – why people just want a prescription and rules to follow from their docs. The responsibility of home doctoring is heavy on my shoulders and taxing on my brain.
My reaction to the email (in my head) was, “I don’t want to figure out how to heal myself! I just want to get better!”
Now that I’m on the other end, I’m glad I did it, but I still didn’t like it. In case that makes anyone out there feel better about their natural health attitude.
‘Cause mine stinks.
Like my feet used to.
Natural Remedies to Fight a Candida Rash
Remember that my awful rash was simply one sign that I was fighting candida internally, so just treating the rash would have been masking the symptom, but not addressing the root. Ironically, a naturopath would be similar to an MD in that they do look at most skin problems as a “one size fits all” issue – “the skin is trying to eliminate something from inside the body. What it is trying to eliminate and how it eliminates it are what determine how the skin appears.”
I asked Dr. Kathryn via email about her thoughts on psoriasis, because I was surprised to hear that diagnosis from the MD. She replied with the above quote plus:
In Psoriasis, the toxins in the bloodstream attach to cell receptor sites making the cells appear foreign to the immune system so it targets them for destruction at the same time triggering other hormones to increase skin cell growth. Thus you get the scales along with the redness and inflammation. Eczema and other dermatitis issues are more of the direct attempt at removal of toxins and pathogens. So you can see that in natural health we are going to address the toxins, acids, and pathogens in the bloodstream to improve the health of the skin. So it doesn’t really matter what “name” it is given. The cause is still much the same.
Therefore, to fight the candida rash, we needed to address the internal issues. Anytime you want to kick candida out of one’s system, you need a three-pronged approach against those toxins and pathogens:
It’s a bit less war-like than it sounds, but almost as fun as “you sank my Battleship!”I recently became aware of a program offered by Whole Intentions called Kicking Candida. It’s a year-long course designed to coach you through long-term lifestyle changes with the goal of healing the gut and stop recurring candida. I haven’t tried it yet, but it’s on my radar!
HERE is the post on how I battled candida both internally and externally, plus reader recommendations and resources. It will answer all your questions…or at least the ones I experienced and have half a clue about! 😉
Some Quality Probiotics
Some of these I’ve used, some I’m planning to use, and some have been recommended by friends and professionals alike. It’s good to remember a few things about probiotics: 1. People should get different colonies of probiotics, so switching brands/strains every so often (6 weeks?) is good practice. 2. What works great for one person’s needs doesn’t always work for another. These can be very different! A one-day trial to Probiotic Advisor might help you get up on current research quickly if you’re really digging in; otherwise, here are some to narrow down the thousands of brands out there:
- Just Thrive Probiotics – this one can be taken during antibiotics and not be rendered ineffective, which almost all other probiotics are! It’s the top recommended probiotic overall by Paleo Mom Sarah Ballantyne. 😮 (Be sure to use the code Katie15 for 15% off; also found on Amazon and from Perfect Supplements where you can use the coupon KS10 for 10% off!)
- RightBioticsRX – the top recommended probiotic of all soil-based options by an expert I’ve been working with. Read more here. Use Subscribe and Save to save more!
- Note: If you’re struggling with digestion, especially constipation, or you feel like you really need to populate your gut with healthy probiotics, I would recommend Saccharomyces Boulardii in addition to any other you choose (except the 2 above which include this strain). Saccharomyces Boulardii is research-proven to get through the digestive tract without being killed, which is rare.
- Biokult – highly recommended by many, including the GAPS diet
- Klaire Labs Pro-biotic complex V-caps or Ther-Biotic Complete (25 billion CFU)
- Balance One probiotics with a unique time-release formula (watch for discounts on the site; there’s almost always one there!)
- Miessence Liquid Probiotic – notes: this is the easiest for kids to take because it’s liquid on a spoon, no powder to hide in smoothies and no capsules to swallow. If you’re on a no-sweetener diet of any kind, it does have agave so could be a no-no. Gluten-free.
- Miessence Powder Probiotic – notes: must be hidden in a smoothie but is less expensive than the above. Not gluten-free. Helped me beat a candida rash when nothing else could.
- Probiophage DF (7 dairy-free strains)
- Transformation Enzymes (5 billion CFUs by may get through digestive tract…)
- Primal Blueprint (6 strains, 10 billion CFUs)
- Pharmax high potency (4 strains + FOS) or long-term HLC maintenance (2 strains)
- Pro-Bio from Enzymedica (8 strains)
- Syntol from Arthur Andrew Medical (13.6 billion CFUs with prebiotic, spore germinating blend, yeast cleanse)
- ProBio 5 from Plexus has been recommended many times, but it’s also, I think, an MLM so it’s possible the recs weren’t so authentic…?
- Dr. Mercola’s probiotics (use the coupon KS10 for 10% off!)
- Nature’s Way Primadophilus Bifidus (the one I happened upon that I took for a while)
- Seed Daily Synbiotic: this one is new to me, but I’m intrigued and am looking forward to seeing if my husband and I see any good results after taking it
For Little Ones:
- Mary Ruth’s liquid probiotic is a soil-based, liquid probiotic that doesn’t need to be refrigerated and tastes like…nothing! It’s my new favorite for administering to kids!
- WellBelly by WellFuture (9 strains of probiotics in apple and banana carrier – it’s a powder)
- Buddies in my Belly probiotic powder (2 strains of probiotics + potato starch carrier and prebiotics) or chewable tablets